Orange Conference 2011 left me inspired and ready to make bold moves in my ministry programming. Lake Point Church in Texas was highlighted for their steps to cancel Wednesday night High School programming and move students to serve their community. I remember thinking, “That’s great… but not doable in our community context”.
However, weeks later I still could not shake the story from my mind and heart. I shared the story with my wife, our family team, and some key students. We resolved to “keep thinking about it”. It wasn’t until a few months later, in June, we took our students on our annual mission trip experience. As we were serving and connecting with a community, a student asked, “Why can’t we do this type of stuff in our own city?” Such a simple question, but a question that brought back the desire in my heart for a ministry “shake-up”. That mission experience fueled the fire for rethinking our regular schedule and asking strategic questions to evaluate how to make those changes effectively.
We leaned into our small group leaders and other adult volunteers and rallied around the idea of pushing students into personal ministry via serving our community. As we kicked off the fall semester, our small groups (7th grade through 12th grade) were to pray about and choose a people group in our community they could serve. We gave the groups three weeks to pray, think, and do some research on their people group (i.e. impoverished children, nursing home residents, orphans, homeless, single mothers, etc…). The fourth Wednesday was the day to go out and meet that particular people group. Some groups chose a nursing home, others chose the homeless mission, others went across town to put on a backyard-bible-club-type environment for underprivileged children – the list goes on and on with different locations and people the groups chose to serve.
Our kids have truly been challenged to live out what they believe. Stories continue to come to light about students taking ownership of the relationships they are building with their people group:
- Seventh-grade boys playing bingo with the elderly and watching a group of the very same boys ask their parents to drive them down on a non-serve night to the nursing home to throw a birthday party for a particular Alzheimer’s patient. The nurses eventually told their small group leader that the patient doesn’t remember much all week, but he knows exactly when those boys will arrive at his door each month. In fact, he is standing at the door waiting on them!
- We have groups of juniors and seniors singing songs, playing games, and teaching a Bible story with children who live in our local housing authority. At the same time, groups of freshmen and sophomores are knocking on doors in the same area, giving out free hot pizzas while asking for prayer requests from residents. Those same students are spending the next 30 days praying for the residents they spoke to.
I could go on and on with the stories from just our first semester! To say we have been blown away by the Lord’s work in our serve nights is a great understatement! Our students are taking their faith by the reigns and sharing it with others! Isn’t that the entire goal of student ministry?!
Without fail, at the end of our serve nights, our students request that the night go longer or that we do this service each week instead of once a month. As we move forward in 2012, those are the questions we are asking…What is the next step? How do we continue to be focused on the people God has given us an opportunity to serve? How do we balance discipleship of our students with service opportunities?
Our serving opportunity – called Revolution Serve – occurs on the last Wednesday of every month. We close the door of our student room and encourage students to take the Revolution into the community. The other three Wednesday nights of the month are times for our students to be fed and discipled through worship, teaching, prayer, and small group.
A few things to think about before you take the jump to close down your programming and push students out into the community:
1) Your students/leaders have to be on board. If this new initiative is totally driven by you, then you will be the one doing all the work to make it a reality. That’s not the goal! Rest assured – some leaders will be skeptical at first – but push through and help them see that this is possible!
2) Give ownership to students. Let them brainstorm places they see themselves serving. If they aren’t excited about it and don’t have a “role” in serving, they won’t do it.
3) Your adult leaders are to be encouragers ONLY. If your leaders are leading the serving time, your students are missing the opportunity to grow and take ownership of the ministry they have chosen.
4) Celebrate wins after the serve opportunity. Ask the students to talk about the activity that took place. This allows them to reflect and process the night in addition to seeing what is working and what isn’t.
Lance Scarbrough’s BIO
My name is Lance Scarbrough and I’m the Family & Grouplife Pastor at Colonial Church (www.colonialchurch.com) in Wichita Falls, TX. I’ve been on staff for over 5 years now and oversee the family ministry environments (birth – college). I have an amazing wife that keeps me in line and we have a 3yr old son that has the energy of a teenager. The Orange strategy, from it’s beginning, has been our ministry strategy. I consider myself as one of the original XP3 users, and proud of it!